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School funded research, led by Professor Carol Coupland at the University of Nottingham and recently published in the BMJ, suggests that commonly used antidepressants, known as ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors’ (SSRIs), are not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes in people aged below 65.

Depression is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, but whether antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, increase or reduce this risk remains controversial. The results are significant because antidepressants are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs worldwide and cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death and disability. 

The researchers examined associations between different antidepressant drugs and rates of three cardiovascular outcomes in people with depression."We found no evidence that SSRIs were associated with an increased risk of arrhythmia, heart attacks, or stroke in people with depression over the five-year period. But there was a significant doubling of risk for arrhythmia during the first four weeks of taking tricyclic and related antidepressants" says Carol Coupland, Associate Professor and Reader in medical statistics, Division of Primary Care.

Read the full University of Nottingham press release. Read the publication in the British Medical Journal (BMJ)